PLATTSBURGH — The Valcour Lighthouse looms large in Roger Harwood’s life.He purchased a property directly across from it and spends hours on Crab Island mowing the grass and maintaining the trails.That’s one of the reasons he’s among this year’s honorees at the “Six Over Seventy Recognition Dinner,” which will be held Wednesday, May 30, at the Butcher Block’s Adirondack Room.
COLD WAR ROLEHarwood, a father of two and grandfather of three, taught technology for 33 years at Plattsburgh High School.The Hartford, NY, native arrived here in 1961 to work on the Atlas Missile sites.He studied automotive technology at SUNY Farmingdale before securing the Cold War-era job here.“I came to Plattsburgh to work in a lab for the missile sites; it was liquid nitrogen and testing things for the use of the missile when they were installing the Atlas missiles here.”He was 19 when he arrived, and now he’s 76.“So, it wasn’t yesterday,” he said.“After that missile project, I worked at what was Ayerst for a couple of years then decided to get a teaching degree and spent three years at SUNY Oswego.”INDUSTRIAL ARTSThe stars aligned, and he snatched a position at Plattsburgh High School in 1967.He taught auto mechanics, woodworking and metal working.“And have been here ever since,” Harwood said.During his 18 years of retirement, he’s filled his slate with many hobbies, including scuba diving, boating, snowmobiling and ATV.“Probably my biggest hobby for the past 20 years has been working at the lighthouse and restoring Crab Island and restoring the lighthouse,” Harwood said.“I got the ‘history disease’ from diving. When you dive in the lake in this area, you can’t help it. It’s here.”ON THE BOTTOMHis drive to give back was instilled by his parents.“I was part of Valcour Bay research project as a diver,” Harwood said.“Prior to that, I got involved in cleaning up Crab Island so people could visit. Cleaning up the poison ivy and finding the trails that led to reinstalling the flagpole out there.”He usually mows three times a summer and works on the trails.“It’s just a project I took on and fell in love with it,” Harwood said.“There are 150 men buried there, and people need to be able to visit. Now, they have ceremonies there.”GROOVY SUMMERLike Harwood, one taste of the North Country wasn’t enough for Nancy Olsen, who also likes to give back.“I enjoyed my teaching and was part of that community,” said the Plattsburgh resident.
“Now, I feel that I should give back as much as I can to the people in the community and particularly the youth.”Her environmental interests led her outdoors, her favorite place to be.Winter is never long enough for the avid skier, who likes to hit the trails and be out in nature in God’s country.Her hands are happiest planting or tending flowers at the Samuel de Champlain Monument or along the Karen Fleury Memorial Bicycle Path.The Rochester native first came to the North Country during the summer of 1967.She was the waterfront director at Camp Tapawingo, the Girl Scouts Camp, at Point Au Roche.“It was great,” Olsen said. “It was a wonderful experience.”I had never been up here before. I said this seems to be a really, neat place with lakes and mountains and places to paddle and hike. That kind of piqued my interest.”She had earned her degree at Ithaca College and was teaching physical education in Newark.She went to the University of Wisconsin for a master’s degree and finished in 1968.
YES WOMANOn the job market again, she looked for employment in the North Country.“I thought this would be a nice place to live and work,” Olsen said.The timing was right as she had lots of choices and interviews for elementary positions and settled in at Peru Central School.She worked at Northside Elementary School at Plattsburgh Air Force Base until it closed in 1995.By that point, she had 32 years in and called it a day.She is a member of the New York State Retired Teachers Association and edited its newsletter for a number of years.“Now, they have an Adopt-a-Highway,” Olsen said Tuesday. “So, we pick up the highway on Route 9 down to AuSable Point. We were supposed to go this morning. That’s why I’m in. It’s raining. Otherwise, I’m supposed to be picking up trash.”After her retirement, she started saying yes to everybody who needed help — when she wasn’t leading Adirondack Mountain Club hikes and outings as a 46er.She became more active in the First Presbyterian Church, where she is a church elder and chair of a local Mission Council.“We have a plot at the (Melissa L. Penfield Park) Community Garden,” Olsen said.“Our food goes to the Interfaith Food Shelf from our garden plot, which is part of our church project. I volunteer at the Food Shelf twice a month, and I’m on the board.”Email Robin Caudell:email@example.comTwitter:@RobinCaudellFIRST IN SERIES”6 Over 70″ is a three-part series featuring honorees for the upcoming “Six Over Seventy Recognition Dinner,” which will be held 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 30. Program/dinner $40.For reservations, contact Patti Killen at the Senior Center at 518-563-6180 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org